May 2, 2010


Watch the complete race video of Sam Chelanga's 10K (courtesy of

Courtesy of Liberty

Sam Chelanga punctuated Liberty’s extremely successful showing at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational in a major way, Saturday evening at Cobb Track and Angell Field. The redshirt junior shaved 20 seconds off of his own collegiate 10K record with a blazing 27:08.39 effort, marking the most impressive of the Flames’ three school-record performances at the meet.

In addition to Chelanga’s record-breaking run, Liberty redshirt seniors Jaime Watson and Ashley Osborne broke the school and Big South Conference records in the women’s 800 and 10K, respectively. In total, seven Flames and Lady Flames competed in the meet known for its strong mid-distance and distance races, and all seven came away with season-best times.

Leading the way was Chelanga’s improbable performance in his outdoor season debut, after having missed a couple weeks of training recently with a slight foot injury. The seven-time All-American, who had not raced since the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships on March 12, showed no signs of rust. He improved upon his previous NCAA 10K record of 27:28.48, set on April 24, 2009 at the Brutus Hamilton Invitational in Berkeley, Calif.

The Kim McDonald Memorial section of the men’s 10K was set up as an American record attempt for former Oregon standout Galen Rupp, who waged several memorable track and cross country battles with Chelanga on the collegiate scene a year ago. Chelanga tucked in right behind Rupp and his pacemakers for much of the race and was pulled through the 5K mark in approximately 13:36.

Rupp ended up bettering the previous American record at 27:10.74, but Chris Solinsky amazingly beat him to it in his debut at the 10K distance. Solinsky, a five-time NCAA national champion while at Wisconsin, unleashed a searing finishing kick, winning the race in a new American record time of 26:59.60. Chelanga closed in 60 seconds for the final lap, passing Rupp for a third-place finish and a record-breaking performance of his own. It was the first time Chelanga had ever defeated Rupp in a head-to-head race.

Rupp was one of four past Olympians Chelanga defeated Saturday evening. The only collegiate runner in his heat, Chelanga clocked the No. 3 time in the world for 2010. He also took over the lead on the 2010 NCAA national performance list by one minute and 24 seconds, over Tulsa’s John Beattie. At the pace Chelanga maintained throughout his record-setting race, averaging approximately 65 seconds per lap, he would have lapped Beattie had they been in the same competition.

Finally, Chelanga’s 27:08.39 performance eliminated all debate about the owner of the collegiate record. The NCAA does not maintain official “collegiate records,” and some track historians had labeled Henry Rono as the collegiate 10K record holder before Saturday evening. The Washington State athlete ran a 27:22.5 10K in 1978, but did so outside of the collegiate season.

Nearly five hours before Chelanga took the track, Watson started Liberty’s memorable day in fine fashion. She broke the school and Big South women’s 800-meter record of her assistant coach, Heather (Sagan) Zealand, by almost two full seconds with a 2:06.09. The previous standard of 2:08.00 had stood since April 13, 2002.

Watson’s time, which met the “B” standard for the 2010 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, placed the Michigan native fourth in her heat and sixth overall among 24 total women’s 800-meter runners at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational. Watson was the second-fastest NCAA Division I performer at the meet and defeated UC Riverside’s Brenda Martinez, the 2009 NCAA Division I national runner-up in the women’s 1,500.

Based upon the latest information available at the time of this writing, Watson now ranks No. 6 in the East Region and No. 12 nationally in the women’s 800.

Osborne’s 10K record time, 34:00.60, came in her second huge breakthrough race of the 2010 outdoor season and unseated her former teammate Carol Jefferson as the school and conference record holder. Jefferson had posted a 34:37.27 on April 26, 2007 at the Penn Relays, the same night Osborne established her still-standing Liberty 5K record of 16:42.79. In the women’s section of the Kim McDonald Memorial 10K, Osborne crossed the line 19th, but third among college runners.

Osborne, a native of Bristol, Va., owned a rather modest 10K personal best of 37:37.39 before the start of the season. She then clocked a 35:35.65 at the Raleigh Relays on March 26, lopping more than two minutes off of her previous best. This evening’s effort marked another incredible 95-second improvement for the reigning Big South 5K and 10K champion.

Osborne maintained a pretty steady pace throughout the 25-lap race, splitting 16:56 for the first 5K and 17:04 for the final 5K. She now sits No. 8 on the East Region performance list and No. 17 in the nation for 2010.

Another nationally prominent performance was provided by redshirt junior Evans Kigen, in Section 2 of the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase. The 2009 All-American in cross country placed third out of 20 runners in his heat, edging out Nicodemus Ng’etich of UTEP as the top collegian in the race. Kigen’s official time of 8:46.53 was the second-fastest effort of his career, trailing only the Liberty and Big South-record 8:43.77 he notched at the 2008 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

Kigen, the Men’s Outstanding Track Performer at this year’s Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championships, jumps up to No. 5 in the East Region and No. 11 in the NCAA on the steeplechase performance list.

In the final race of the evening, Section 2 of the men’s 10K, senior Josh Edmonds capped the Flames’ banner night with a personal-best 29:39.68. He placed 23rd in his heat while cutting more than 45 seconds off of his previous personal record, 30:25.29. Edmonds is the sixth runner in program history ever to break 30 minutes in a 10K.

Earlier in the day, two members of the Lady Flames’ 1-2-3 sweep in the women’s 1,500-meter run at the Big South Outdoor Track & Field Championships recorded new season bests in the event.

Rebekah Ricksecker, the winner of that Big South 1,500-meter championship race, finished third in Section 3. Her 4:26.57 trimmed almost four seconds off her the redshirt senior’s previous best 1,500-meter time in 2010 and places her squarely on the bubble for qualification to the NCAA Division I Preliminary Round meet at this point.

Teammate Jennifer Klugh made a definitive move to take the lead in Section 4 at the bell after the pace had dawdled a bit early on. The sophomore from the Buckeye State ran her final lap in approximately 67 seconds to grab second place in the heat and set a new career-best time of 4:34.86. Klugh now ranks No. 7 on Liberty’s all-time performance list in the event.

Some of Liberty’s athletes will make one final attempt to hit the IC4A and ECAC qualification standards on May 9, at the Duke Twilight meet. The one-day event will begin at 2 p.m. at Wallace Wade Stadium.